Spreading the word from Australia

Most artists and publishers wouldn't even dream of having more than 30 million people sing their song each week, but the considerable export success of many Australian Christian and gospel songwriters have made this dream a reality for some.

Whichever way you look at it, there is little doubt that our Christian songwriters are striking a chord in overseas markets.

Steve McPherson from Hillsong Publishing, a member of the Australasian Music Publishers' Association Limited (AMPAL), estimates that 25 to 30% of the total Australian music publishing export income comes from Christian and gospel music.

“Although we don't have exact figures,” he said, “it is within this vicinity, which is extraordinarily high”.

Wes Jay from Woodlands Media works with such popular Christian acts as the Paul Colman Trio, Alabaster Box and Nathan Tasker, all of whom are among the most played Australian Christian artists on Australian Christian radio.

Jay said that there are approximately 40 Christian radio stations in Australia. “They are also listened to by the broader community and the music they are playing is relevant to anyone who wants to give it a listen.”

And it is this relevance that Jay believes is the key to the success of Australian music overseas, not just in direct sales but also in performances and awards.

The top four Australian artists in worldwide sales figures are Hillsong, Newsboys, Rebecca St James and Sister Janet Mead, with sales of six million apiece for the first two and four million and two million respectively for the last two.

Rebecca St James, the Newsboys and Sister Janet Mead have also been nominated for Grammys with Rebecca St James winning Best Rock Gospel Grammy for her album Pray. 

But in terms of performances, it is Darlene Zsech's song “Shout to the Lord” (published by Hillsong Publishing) that has really reached out to people across the world, with 35 million people giving voice to her music and words each week.

Figures from the Christian photocopying agency CCLI place it in the top ten most photocopied songs in churches and Christian schools and conferences, in Australia, the UK, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and South Africa.

“That's simply astounding,” Jay said. He believes the success of this song, like many other Australian Christian songs, is due to the fact that it comes “out of a struggle.”

“Too often Christian music can seem to come from a parallel universe,” he said. “But these Australian songs talk from the heart, they talk realistically and they are not insulated from your broader community.”

Hillsong's Steve McPherson

Hillsong's Steve McPherson

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